By Michelle Boyle
If you’re a Tiny House Enthusiast, you have no doubt heard about all the benefits of downsizing. And if you think about it purely from a logical standpoint, having less stuff means having less stuff to worry about, store, clean, pay for, and maintain. And that makes sense, right?
Have you ever considered the other things that clutter our lives? Like relationships? If you think about it, our lives start out pretty simple and then get increasingly complex as we mature. With maturity comes relationships and, literally, the same logic can be applied to those as well. The more relationships you have the more people you have to worry about, store (keep a roof over their heads) clean (or, rather, clean up after) pay for, and maintain (can you say “New shoes for my growing son, every three months!?”).
Question: So, why is downsizing our possessions touted as one of the first steps towards an increased emphasis on relationships; if they both yield the same end result?
Relationships pay us back by enriching our lives. We share with others, and they share with us. We teach others, and they teach us. We love others, and if all goes well, they love us back. Good relationships feed our soul, give us solace, teach us how to be patient, and how to be empathetic.
Does our stuff provide us with peace, solace, and love?
As people enter our lives they bring stuff. We then start to correlate stuff, to people; we assign emotional value to possessions. For instance, we become sentimental about a painting done by our first grade daughter, and we remember an important life event from a printed program or memorabilia. (This is not a bad thing, by the way.) It’s actually an easy and efficient way for our brains to recall that event. The “bad” part, is that we tend to then become indiscriminate about what possessions we assign value to. Perhaps we don’t trust our brains to remember the “important” events? Or perhaps we want to surround ourselves with things to remind us that we are living a fulfilling life?
The key here is not to assign any value to any things. They key is to use discrimination. And that leads us back to the difficult process of downsizing.
Question: If assigning discriminate value to our stuff makes so much sense, logically, then why is it so difficult?
Answer: Because we are forcing ourselves to re-learn to what and whom we should assign value.
So, how exactly do you decide what goes and what stays when you’re trying to downsize into a Tiny House?
Frankly, I don’t know how it will work for you. After all, downsizing is so personal. It’s an entirely different event for each person, bringing with it an entirely new set of baggage (mine is in a bin, marked “LUGGAGE”). I don’t have the answers for you, but here are a few examples of the thought processes that have been playing, over and over in my head, for the last few months. Maybe they’ll inspire you to begin your own….
I had two small, handmade, clay bowls. They were both pretty, and earthy, and made by the students of someone with whom I once had a close relationship. I attended a fund raising event where I paid $10, per bowl, to fill it with soup and then got to take home the bowls. One, I used for pencils. The other one sat in the cupboard waiting for a purpose that it never ended up serving. As I looked at the bowls I realized I was keeping them because they reminded me of how giving I was. As I contemplated them further, however, I also realized they entered my life as a result of a relationship which was now a painful life lesson. Not wanting to be reminded of that pain, they were both recently donated to charity.
Good feelings return, lesson learned, now moving on…
I was raised in a less than affluent family. I did not have nice, or trendy clothes. I got by with the basics but, as a foster child, I was happy to have any at all. As I matured (there’s that word again) and earned my own money I spent a LOT of it in my early 20′s on clothes and shoes. Even if I didn’t need yet another white button down over sized shirt, I bought one because it was on sale, or because I COULD. In retrospect, I believe that the difference between age and maturity is understanding the difference between things you CAN do and things you SHOULD do. Nowadays, I don’t have nearly the stuffed closet and dresser as I used to; but the feelings still challenge me when I shop. “I deserve it.” “I work so hard.” “I want to look good, so I’ll feel good about myself.” These are all tough life lessons that reveal themselves in how we view our stuff.
These are the same tough life lessons that we are forced to re-learn as we downsize.
Is your stuff a reflection of who you are? A parent, a builder, a daughter, a son, a mentor, a gardener, or a philanthropic traveler? To what extent do you rely on things to remind you of who you are, or are your things on display so others will believe that you are, who you want them to believe you are?
Think about it this way. If you have a 12 foot long wall, full of pictures of your children and grandchildren, does this make you a stellar parent? Or does it reflect more on how you wish others to see you? If you have exercise equipment gathering dust, is this a reflection of the healthy person you want to see yourself as? Can and should you, instead, assign that same sense of identity to a pair of running shoes?
While sketching my elevations, I realize how very tiny my Tiny House really is!
Downsizing is really, really, really, difficult. It is sometimes not quite as easy as the “one bin for donations, one bin for keeps, and one bin for garbage” process. The process of even deciding that you want to, and need to get rid of, the emotions you assign to your stuff, and embracing the mental roadblocks; is what keeps most people from even considering a Tiny House.
After all, where would they (or you) put all their (or your) stuff?
My “stuff” (which is a rather thoughtless and crass description of the treasures that will be left) will be creatively and proudly displayed, and some of it may be stored. But in either case, they will be cherished and/or cared for, and a far more clear reflection of both myself and the relationships I have built along the way of building My Empty Nest.
My Tiny House and everything in it will be a reflection of who I am to myself, and nobody else. And yes, that’s a good thing!
Michelle is an outgoing single mom, published author, speaker, patented inventor, blogger, craigslist stalker, enthusiastic Glamper, and Northwest native. Her interest in all-things-tiny-and-old started when she was only 12 years old when she became fascinated with a tiny abandoned farm house near her parent’s home; and she’s been sketching floor plans ever since. With pencil and graph paper in hand she’s more than ready for the next phase of her life. Her Tiny House, aptly named “My Empty Nest”, is the culmination of a life spent dreaming of a tiny reclaimed space, all her own.
Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Empty-Nest/494081560700467
Blog link: mytinyemptynest.blogspot.com
Day two of Deek’s Tiny House Workshop was extremely busy with lots going on. We started out the morning with a demonstration on how to make wooden shakes the old fashioned way by hand.
We than continued to work on our different projects. Chairs were completed and the tree house continued to take shape. A new tiny house had come in late the night before.
Joe explained how to attach a house to a trailer and what to watch for when purchasing a trailer.
We than went on a tiny house tour of the property and visited tiny houses under construction, tiny houses that were occupied by Joe’s parents and sister. Explored Joe’s tiniest house and the tear drop.
We ended the day with some going into town and others staying and visiting around the campfire. A very educational day. Only one more to go…
Here are a few photos of the first day of Deek’s workshop at the Tiny Happy Homes location in Collierville, Tennessee. One of the largest workshops ever with over 50 participants and several structures being set up. We are having nearly perfect weather with the temperatures in the high seventies. Deek officially started the workshop on Friday at noon.
Deek started the day with a safety speech and then separated everyone into small groups working on different projects. From setting up a yurt to a prefab Hummingbird Tiny Spaces house. Building chairs, a tree house, a tiny 4 x 8 structure and much more. We ended the day with a pizza dinner brought in by Joe’s dad and myself from Collierville.
Then we sat around a nice fire and introduced ourselves and visited late into the evening. I’ll let the photos tell the story.
During a trip to Portland last week, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Deb and Kol of Caravan — The Tiny House Hotel in the cool and funky area of Alberta Street in the Northeast part of the city. Most readers know about the couple’s selection of tiny homes for nightly rental in the middle of the city, and now the hotel has a new addition. The 160 square foot Skyline is Caravan’s newest tiny house available for guests and reflects a rustic, Western style with a cozy interior and some great details.
Skyline was built in the Portland driveway of Eric Bohne and completed this February. Eric works full time as a craftsman and also built his own house on the Oregon coast out of recycled materials. His company, Metalwood Salvage, sells salvaged metal pieces and his design and carpentry business, Alter Areas, focuses on re-purposing unique building materials.
The Skyline does not have a loft, but a bunked sleeping and living area. The typical ladder has been replaced with a short, metal staircase. The main part of the house has a bar style eating area and a kitchen with a roomy farm sink and storage. One of the most unusual parts of the trailer is the bathroom. It includes a shower and angled toilet that fits just perfectly into the tongue of the trailer. An ingenious folding ladder sits above the toilet in a metal bracket. It can be unfolded for accessibility to a storage loft above the bathroom.
Deb and Kol recently had an open house for Caravan and the line formed around the block.They estimated about 1,000 to 1,500 people from all walks of life visited the hotel. When I visited on a warm, dry evening (unexpected in Portland during the spring) we sat in the courtyard around a metal burn barrel (fueled with scrap lumber Kol gathers from around the city) and chatted about tiny houses, codes and laws, permits and opportunities. Deb and Kol’s own permitting process was “creative and long” but they feel that their hotel is a unique and legitimate staging area as to what is possible in the tiny house industry.
“With the tiny house movement, everything about it is good,” Deb said. “There is no reason not to make it happen.”
Portland is a hotbed of the tiny house movement and the excitement and possibilities for the dwellings are really catching on. During this warm night, the Caboose was filled with four young people, a young couple from Chicago were enjoying the Portland-themed Tandem and the Rosebud was inhabited by a travel writer from New York — all visitors curious about tinier living. The hotel not only seems to be a tidy selection of tiny houses, but a gathering place for interesting, like-minded people.
Photos by Caravan — The Tiny House Hotel and Christina Nellemann